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Zulgad: Time is running out for Vikings’ 2022 draft class to prove it wasn’t a bust

There is no more misguided project involving the NFL draft — and that is saying something — than the immediate attempt to assign overall grades to each team’s selections. A process that takes several years to play itself out is assigned a collective letter mark hours after all the names have been called.

The latest example of the futility accompanying this assignment comes from the Minnesota Vikings’ 2022 draft. Chad Reuter of NFL.com and Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News gave the Vikings A-minus grades. ESPN’s Mel Kiper, the Washington Post’s Mark Maske, and Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports handed out B-minuses. Rob Rang of Fox Sports wasn’t so kind, giving the Vikings a C-plus grade, and Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated handed out a D-minus.

Orr’s negativity has proven to be well-founded and might not be strong enough. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s first draft as the Vikings’ general manager could be headed for an F, depending on how the remaining class members do this season. This concerns those who know how important this month’s draft will be in shaping the future of the Vikings’ roster.

Adofo-Mensah’s defenders will point out that he had only been on the job for a few months before that draft and that the current front office structure wasn’t as set then. That doesn’t excuse the fact that Adofo-Mensah not only traded back with Detroit to go from 12 to 32 in the first round but then missed (at least for now) on three of his first four picks.

Here’s a look at the Vikings’ 10-player draft class from 2022:

Round 1 (32): Lewis Cine, S
Round 2 (42): Andrew Booth Jr., CB
Round 2 (59): Ed Ingram, G
Round 3 (66): Brian Asamoah, LB
Round 4 (118): Akayleb Evans, CB
Round 5 (165): Esezi Otomewo, DT
Round 5 (169): Ty Chandler, RB
Round 6 (184): Vederian Lowe, OL
Round 6 (191): Jalen Nailor, WR
Round 7 (227): Nick Muse, TE

Cine, taken with the last pick of the opening round, has only played in two games and been in for 10 defensive snaps in his first two seasons. Cine suffered a compound fracture in his left leg early in his rookie season but declared himself ready to go during offseason workouts last spring.

But he only played in seven regular-season games, despite the fact that defensive coordinator Brian Flores often employed three safeties simultaneously, including 2020 sixth-round pick Josh Metellus.

It wasn’t much better with Booth and Asamoah, who were expected to step into prominent roles last season. Booth played in all 17 games and got a chance on defense. Still, it appears the Vikings will head into offseason workouts with 2023 third-round selection Mekhi Blackmon and free agent addition Shaq Griffin as the outside corners and Byron Murphy Jr. inside in the nickel.

Asamoah only played 36 snaps on defense last season, and while he has appeared in 29 games over two years, he has yet to get a start. The starting inside linebackers are Ivan Pace Jr., an undrafted free agent who excelled as a rookie last season, and free agent signee Blake Cashman.

Ingram struggled at right guard in his first year but started all 18 games, including the playoff loss to the Giants, and showed improvement in starting 15 games in 2023. The fact that Ingram is the most successful player from this group isn’t a positive.

Evans has shown promise in his first two seasons but dealt with concussion issues as a rookie and was benched in a Dec. 24 game against Detroit last year at U.S. Bank Stadium. He returned to start in the final two games of the season, but the decision to sign Griffin likely means Evans will find himself on the sideline when the Vikings play their opener.

Of the Vikings’ final five picks, Otomewo and Lowe are no longer with the team, Nailor has dealt with injuries and spent three stints on injured reserve last season, and Muse has played two snaps on offense in 12 games.

Chandler likely will serve as the backup to free agent running back Aaron Jones, who joined the Vikings after being released by the Packers. The Vikings were so hesitant to turn to Chandler as their starter last season that they spent much of the year with the struggling Alexander Mattison as their top back and didn’t turn over that job to Chandler until the final four games. Mattison was released this offseason.

If you have wondered why the Vikings don’t have more depth, this is why. Adofo-Mensah and Co., turned out two players the coaching staff currently trusts (Ingram and Chandler) and six that remain on the roster but with uncertain roles.

The offseason and training camp could be the last chance for guys like Cine, Booth, and Asamoah to prove that the generous grades so many gave the Vikings’ draft class in 2022 were warranted. The problem is the clock is ticking, and some might believe it’s already run out.

Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire